"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Mark 15:34
It was not the nails driven through His hands and feet—it was not the crown of thorns placed upon His brow—it was not the stripes which mangled His back—it was not the languor and faintness under which He suffered—that caused the Lord to die. It was not the mere bodily agony of the cross—it was not the mere pain, though most acute and severe, of the nails driven through His sacred hands and feet. It was not the being stretched upon the cross six hours, that constituted the chief part of the Redeemer's suffering.
But it was the almost intolerable load of imputed sin—the imputed sins of millions—it was the tremendous pouring of the wrath of God into His holy soul—it was the hiding of His Father's face, and the very pangs of hell that there caught hold of Him! Our suffering Savior drank the cup of the wrath of God to the very dregs—when our vile, dreadful, and horrible sins were laid upon Him! "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief: when You shall make His soul an offering for sin." Isaiah 53:10
"You have put all things in subjection under His feet." Hebrews 2:8
See the sovereign supremacy of Jesus! All temptations are also put under Jesus' feet. How sweet to see and feel this! Your path may at present be a path of great temptation—snares of the most dangerous and most deceitful kind may be laid for your feet in various directions—Satan may be allowed to assault your soul with all his infernal arts and weapons. You may have a sad conflict with the vile lusts of your depraved nature, and feel that you have as many sins alive in your heart as there are hairs upon your head!
But are not these things put in subjection under His feet? Would it be true that God has put all things under His feet if temptations were omitted? Can Satan tempt you a single point beyond the Lord's permission? How was it with Job, when Satan was allowed to tempt him? Did not God fix the exact length of Satan's tether when He said, "Touch not his life?" Satan was allowed to destroy all his property—to sweep off all his children at a stroke—to smite him with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. But he could not touch his life, either natural or spiritual, or drive him to blaspheme God, though he so far prevailed as to make him curse the day of his birth. "Here you may come, but no further," the Lord virtually said to Satan, "and here shall your proud waves be stayed." So with you. Whatever temptations you may have to endure, they can never touch your life—for that is hidden with Christ—safely lodged in the heart and hands of Him who reigns supreme in power and glory!
Love at first sight!
"I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you." Jeremiah 31:3
There is no beginning to the love of Christ, for it existed when He existed—which was from eternity. Neither is there any end to that love. His love then, is as eternal as Himself. O what a mercy it is for those who have any gracious, experimental knowledge of the love of Christ, to believe it is from everlasting to everlasting—that no incidents of time—no storms of sin or Satan—can ever change or alter that eternal love—but that it remains now and will remain the same to all eternity! The love of Christ to His people is eternal, unchanging, unchangeable. And why? Because He loves as God.
This eternal, unchanging character of the love of Christ gives us something to stand upon—apart from our fluctuating feelings—our wavering frames—and the changes that ever take place in our thoughts, hearts and lives. The love of Christ to us is not changing and changeable like ours to Him—but like Himself abides forever. Jesus freely, fully, and unchangeably loves those who were given to Him by the Father in the councils of eternity—and presented to Him as His future spouse and bride.
Christ's love to His bride was love at first sight! For when she was presented to Him by the Father that she might be His spouse—as soon as He beheld His chosen bride He fell in love with her—for He saw her not sunk and fallen—but in all her beauty as clothed in the fullness of that glory in which she will one day shine forth—when she sits down with Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb!
Nothing can quench or destroy the love of Christ! It will prevail over sin, death, and hell—yes, over every impediment and obstacle—until it achieves the final victory, and in all the blaze of full perfection and fruition—fill heaven with its eternal glory!
They are mere muckworms!
"Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who think about earthly things." Philippians 3:19
Paul here cuts off thousands of nominal Christians, as those "who mind earthly things." This means that they have no taste, no appetite or relish for divine things—no affections fixed on things above. Their mind is on earthly things. They are mere muckworms—ever groping and groveling after money and gain!
According to their various needs
"From His fullness we all received grace upon grace." John 1:16
Jesus is ever bestowing His grace to His people according to their various needs—grace for every burden we may have to carry—grace for every trial we may have to endure—grace for every affliction we may have to suffer—grace for every duty we may have to perform—grace to carry us through life—grace to be with us in, and carry us safely through, death itself!
When the Lord makes up His jewels
"As unknown, and yet well known." 2 Corinthians 6:9
God's people, as well as God's servants, are little known, and less esteemed in this world. It is God's purpose and a part of His infinite wisdom that it should be so. The Lord is training up heirs of an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and preparing them for those mansions of holiness and bliss which He has prepared for them before the foundation of the world.
But while they are here below, they are in a state of obscurity. We may compare them to a large and valuable diamond, which is now undergoing the operations of cutting and polishing in some obscure court in the city, no one scarcely knowing of its existence or value, but its owner and the jeweler who is patiently cutting it into shape. But one day it may adorn a monarch's crown! So while God is cutting and polishing His diamonds by trials and temptations—sufferings and afflictions—they are hidden from the eyes of men. But when the Lord makes up His jewels, they will shine forth forever in His crown!
God has chosen the poor of this world, for the most part, to be rich in faith. Not many notable in the annals of learning, power, or rank—not many noble, not many rich, not many mighty, has He called by His grace to a knowledge of Himself. The Lord's people rarely possess any wealth, station, property, or worldly distinction. They are for the most part poor and despised, as their Lord and Master was before them—and such the world cares neither to know, nor notice. "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17
Giver & Maintainer
The Holy Spirit is not only the Giver, but the Maintainer of all life in the soul.
Offensive to the world?
Nothing is more offensive to the world than vital godliness!
A monster in the church of God!
"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who doesn't love his brother remains in death." 1 John 3:14
What would a Christian be without love? A monster indeed! We hear sometimes of monsters in nature—of a lamb born with two heads, or six legs, or two hearts. So a professing Christian, without any love to the people of God, would be a monster in the Church of God! Grace has many painful, many lingering births; but the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all, never brought forth a monster from her teeming womb. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Galatians 5:22
Deaf & dumb?
"He who is of God hears the words of God. For this cause you don't hear, because you are not of God." John 8:47
Some are born, as it is called, deaf and dumb. They are not really speechless, though called so, for all their vocal organs are as perfect as ours. But they cannot use them so as to form intelligible language, for no sound has ever reached their mind—and what they have never heard they cannot imitate.
We have our deaf and dumb in the religious world as well. They cannot speak the language of Canaan, for they have never heard it spoken into their heart. And we also have those once deaf who now hear—and that by the power of an Almighty "Be opened!" "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27
Transformed into His likeness
"Leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
"He who says he remains in Him ought himself also to walk as He walked." 1 John 2:6
The image of Jesus is reflected in the hearts of His people. A real Christian is one who is meek, humble, tender, broken, contrite—with a heart of faith, hope, and love—walking in the fear of God, desirous to know His will and do it—submissive under affliction—spiritually-minded—and adorning the doctrine by a godly life. But the 'mere professor of religion' lives contrary to the mind and the image of Christ. He is proud, obstinate, worldly, covetous, boasting, presumptuous—full of self-exaltation and self-conceit—light, trifling, carnal, earthly-minded.
The sovereignty of God
"All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: 'What have You done?'" Daniel 4:35
The verdict of God in His word is that He is Sovereign. The sovereignty of God, as exercised in all matters great or small, is often a hard thing for the people of God, especially when it touches them close. When it—takes away idols out of their bosom—blights their schemes—withers their prospects—disappoints their hopes—and stands before them as a mountain of brass and a gate of iron, which they can neither pass over nor pass through.
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her." Hosea 2:14
The children of God would not voluntarily go into the wilderness—it is a place too barren for them to enter, except as allured in a special manner by the grace of God—and led by the power of God. Nor do they for the most part know where the Lord is taking them. They follow His drawings—they are led by His allurings—they listen to His persuading voice, trusting to Him as to an unerring Guide. But they do not know the 'place of barrenness' into which He is bringing them—this the Lord usually conceals from their eyes. He allures and they follow—but He does not tell them what He is going to do with them, or where He intends to take them. He hides His gracious purposes, that He may afterwards bring them more clearly to light.
Look at the place where He brings His people—the wilderness. This is a type and figure much used by the Holy Spirit, and conveys to us much deep and profitable instruction. The wilderness is an isolated, solitary spot, far, far away from cities, and towns, and other busy haunts of men—a remote and often dreary abode, where there is no intruding eye to mark the wanderer's steps, where there is no listening ear to hear his sighs and cries. The Lord, when He puts forth His sacred power upon the heart, to allure His people into the wilderness, brings them into a spot where in solitude and silence they may be separated from every one but Himself. The 'wilderness,' we take as an emblem of being alone with God—coming out of the world—away from sin and worldly company—out of everything carnal, sensual, and earthly—and being brought into that solemn spot where there are secret, sacred, and solitary dealings with God!
Only a huge clod of dust
"Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust." Isaiah 40:15
Everything upon earth, as viewed by the eyes of the Majesty of heaven—is worthless and paltry. Earth is after all, only a huge clod of dust! And as such, as insignificant in the eyes of its Maker as a drop in the bucket, or dust on the scales. What, then, are all earth's—highest objects—loftiest aims—grandest pursuits—noblest employments—in the sight of Him who inhabits eternity—but base and worthless?
No, even in our eyes there is one consideration that stamps vanity upon them all. That all earth's pursuits, whatever high attainments men may reach in this life, be it of wealth, rank, learning, power, or pleasure—they all end in death! The breath of God's displeasure soon lays low in the grave all that is rich and mighty, high and proud—for the Lord Almighty will punish the proud, bringing them down to the dust!
The effectual work of grace on the heart whereby the chosen vessels of mercy are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, calls them out of—those low, groveling pursuits—those earthly toys—those base and sensual lusts, in which the people of this world seek at once their happiness and their ruin!
To enjoy fellowship with God—to feel the mind drawn up to high and heavenly things—to have the heart weaned and separated from the poor, groveling, miserable cares of this world—to have the soul solemnly engaged with the realities of a never-ending eternity—to live a life of faith in the Son of God—to be spiritually-minded—to be dead to sin and the world—to seek happiness in knowing the will of God and doing it—and to be looking forward to the end of the race as giving a crown of glory—surely there is something in this vital experience of the child of God, which elevates his soul beyond this poor, wretched valley of tears—this miserable scene where everything is stamped with vexation and disappointment!
Many are called
"Many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:14
There is a calling which is not effectual—which is not saving—which does not prove and evidence the reality of a person's being chosen according to God's eternal purpose unto eternal life. Family bereavements—bodily sickness, especially if the illness be dangerous or severe—advancing age and infirmities—heavy strokes in providence—strong convictions of conscience—desires to repent and turn to the Lord—fears of death and hell—sitting under the sound of truth—the counsel and example of godly parents—the terrors of the Lord in a broken Law—and the invitations of mercy in a preached Gospel—all these are so many calls wherein and whereby Wisdom, at the entrance to the city, at the city gates, cries aloud. But we well know that all these 'external calls' are ineffectual until the Holy Spirit puts forth His secret and sacred power upon the heart!
He puts His hand in a mysterious way into the heart
Before we can receive Christ, there must be room made for Him, and this must be done by the power of God's grace—for sin and Satan are so strong that nothing else can overcome them. The usual way by which this room is made for Christ is by cutting convictions, distressing temptations, and alarming views of the majesty and purity of God—for it is by such dealings upon the conscience that we come experimentally to learn our own miserable sinfulness. The Blessed Spirit working in and by these convictions, and softening and melting the heart by a divine influence, thus breaks to pieces the pride, self-righteousness, prejudice, enmity, opposition—and all those obstacles that have so shut out the gospel—so blinded the eyes—stopped the ears—and hardened the heart against the voice of truth. It is not now whether we will turn to the Lord or not, and leave the ways of sin or not; for He makes us willing in the day of His power, and puts His hand in a mysterious way into the heart.
The Lord, by the secret power and influence of His grace, puts His hand into the heart—and by the secret movements of His Spirit in and upon the conscience—raises up not only a sense of the soul's ruin and misery, but, being poured out as a Spirit of grace and of supplication—communicates desires, breathings, sighs, cries and groans, lookings and longings for mercy, pardon, and peace. It is in this way that the Lord Jesus Christ makes His people willing to receive him—for He not only convinces them of their miserable state—but in a secret, mysterious way discovers, from time to time, so much of His suitability, beauty, blessedness, grace, and glory—as to make the heart willing to entertain Him, and to dread nothing so much as to live and die without the manifestation of His blood and love!
How do we receive Jesus?
"But as many as received Him." John 1:12
How do we receive Jesus? We receive Jesus as the eternal Son of God in all His blessed relationships. We receive Jesus as our atoning High Priest. We receive Jesus as our teaching Prophet, that He may lead us into all truth. We receive Jesus as our most gracious Sovereign, who is to sway His peaceful scepter over every faculty of the soul. We receive Jesus as our Lord and King. We receive Jesus as our Savior from the wrath to come. We receive Jesus as our Mediator between God and man. We receive Jesus as our Husband who has espoused us in eternal covenant ties. We receive Jesus as our Brother born for adversity. We receive Jesus as our Friend who loves at all times. We receive Jesus as our Substitute who has borne our sins in His own body. We receive Jesus as our Representative in the courts of heaven. We receive Jesus as our glorious Head, out of whom we receive all supplies to sanctify us, and make us fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
Sin, Satan & the world
We often, through the power of sin—the subtlety of Satan—and the strength of temptation—get drawn aside from the simplicity that is in Christ.
1. When the Lord is pleased in any manner to manifest Himself to the soul, sin receives a paralyzing blow—it cannot lift up its head in the presence of Jesus. He puts His victorious feet upon its neck, for He will not allow it to reign and rule in the believer's heart. Nor indeed can it do so when under the influence of His grace, according to the promise—"Sin shall not have dominion over you." But when He withdraws His gracious presence, sin that before lay dead, begins to revive. It is like the sleeping serpent—torpid in the winter, but revived by the warm beams of spring. So when sin once more comes forth out of its torpid state, and begins again to manifest itself in all its secret power and all its dreadful influence—the soul gets into worse confusion and trouble than ever—for fresh sin brings fresh guilt, and when guilt falls as a dark and gloomy cloud over the conscience, it hides and obscures all that God has done in the heart; it buries evidences, casts a mist of darkness over the throne of grace, shuts out access to God, and fills the whole mind with bondage, doubt, and fear.
2. Satan, too, who, when the Lord was pleased to manifest Himself, withdrew for a time—begins again to lay his secret snares—sometimes puffing up the heart with pride—sometimes secretly insinuating what a good and blessed experience the soul has been favored with, so as to lift it up with vain confidence and presumption, exalting itself and despising others—sometimes spreading a hidden trap for the feet, whereby he entangles it in some vile sin, or thrusts it down at once by some sudden slip or fall. If he does not succeed in this way, he will sometimes beguile the mind with some error—or work upon our reasoning powers—or raise up infidel thoughts—or whisper vile suggestions—or insinuate that all the soul has tasted, handled, and felt, was but delusion and deception—and that we have been guilty of hypocrisy in speaking of anything which we thought God had done for us.
3. The world, which seemed to have little influence when the soul was under the blessed teaching of the Lord, begins again to work with renewed power. The worldly spirit which exists in every believer's bosom is easily inflamed—for sin and Satan are ever at hand to pile up combustible material and set it on fire. Under this wretched influence a whole troop of worldly thoughts and desires begin again to take possession of the mind—and as these regain their former strength—they shut out union and communion with the Lord of life and glory—and produce inward darkness, deadness, coldness, hardness, barrenness, and a general stupor of mind—all which sad evils give great encouragement to the powers of hell to renew their attacks, and often with too much success.
By these and various other ways, the soul is drawn aside from the simplicity that is in Christ, and stripped of its enjoyments, its spirituality of mind, and its heavenly affections—and is thus no longer able to walk with God in the sweet fellowship which it had been favored with when Christ was made precious to the soul.
The hardest thing in the world!
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
Before we can come rightly to Jesus, we must be taught by the Holy Spirit to feel our need of Him. This may seem very simple, and indeed is so in doctrine and theory—but not so in experience—for to come to Jesus is the hardest thing in the world! No one really comes to Him until he has tried every other refuge, every other hope of salvation—until he has been driven out of house and home, made an outcast and ready to perish. John Newton justly says, "Few, if any, come to Jesus, until reduced to self-despair."
The first divine work upon the soul by the Holy Spirit, is chiefly to make us feel our need of Jesus. Our convictions—our distressing sensations of guilt, shame, and sorrow—our doubts and fears—our trials and temptations—our varied afflictions, from whatever source they come or of whatever nature they be, are all so many means in the hand of the Spirit to bring us near unto Jesus!
It was not the nails nor the spear
"Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree." 1 Peter 2:24
In a sense we are all murderers of Jesus. It was not the nails nor the spear that killed the Son of God. Our sins—these were the nails! Our iniquity—this was the Roman spear!
Deity suffered, bled & died!
"For you were bought with a price." 1 Corinthians 6:20
It may be that some of you have seen and felt yourselves at various times, to be some of the foulest, filthiest, blackest, most polluted wretches that God allows to crawl upon His earth—for though your lives may have been free from outward spot, and you are made to walk in the fear of God—yet the shining in of divine teaching has discovered to you the depths of your fallen nature. You felt that—your debt was unpayable—your crimes were too great—your sins were too black—your iniquity was too foul.
Millions of sins of millions of sinners were all put away, blotted out, cancelled, removed, cast behind God's back, and drowned in the depths of the sea—as that precious blood fell from the hands and feet and side of Jesus upon Calvary's cruel tree! Deity suffered, bled and died! Jesus stood, as it were, between the wrath of God and His people—and it was as if by so doing He said, "Let the law discharge all its curses upon Me. Here is My head—let the lightning fall. I bare My brow. Let the wrath of God come upon Me—that My sheep may go free!"
We shall never properly value redeeming love, atoning blood, justifying righteousness, and the gift of the Son of God until we have known experimentally the slavery of sin—and groaned as poor captives under the dominion of Satan. Until the iron has entered our very soul—until the fetters have galled our feet and the manacles our wrists, and we can look up to God and point to our bleeding wounds as inflicted by sin, Satan, and the law—we can never truly feel our need of, or really value—the redemption that has been accomplished by the suffering Son of God.
But O, what a blessed change it is when the first ray of mercy breaks in upon the soul, and cheers the poor captive, who has been groaning for years, shut up in our dungeon cells, half starved, covered with filth and loathsome with vermin—the vermin of sin. But O to have the light of day breaking in through the prison doors, and to hear sounds from above of pardon and peace and blessed liberation—is not this enough to make the poor prisoner's heart leap for joy within him?
If you had a crippled child
"O Lord, You have searched me, and known me." Psalm 139:1
We may deceive ourselves, and we may deceive one another.
But there is one whom we cannot deceive—a heart-searching God. The Lord
Himself writes this truth with His own finger upon every regenerate heart.
He teaches two lessons to every soul in whom His powerful hand works—
This teaching from above makes a man sincere before God. For if not sincere, what is he, or what is any man in a profession of religion? Nothing! Nothing, did I say? He is worse than nothing—because to be insincere before God is to add hypocrisy to our other sins—is to insult the Majesty of heaven—is to tie, if it were possible, a double millstone round our neck to sink us in the depths of hell. God, the all-seeing, the omniscient Jehovah, searches the hearts, and He searches them for good as well as for evil—for both lie equally naked before His penetrating eye. There is not—an evil thought—a licentious desire—a covetous wish—or an ungodly imagination framed in our mind—that does not lie open before the eyes of our heart-searching God!
Like the ostrich, you may bury your head in the sand, and think yourself unseen—but your whole body stands exposed to the bow of the unerring archer. God sees, then, all the evil which is in us—and well may that thought cover us with shame and confusion of face! You could not tell your nearest, dearest friend what daily and hourly takes place in the depths of your carnal mind—but all is open before God! This should make you watchful and prayerful, as living under the eye of an omniscient Being who reads every thought—hears every word—and spies out every action. This should make you fearful to offend, and desirous to please the Majesty of heaven.
But He who searches the heart searches not only for evil—but also for good. He is full of compassion, mercy, love, and truth. To His children, He is not a rigorous Judge, or a hard Master. But He is a kind, affectionate Father, and Friend. And as a parent looks with very tender eye upon the unavoidable infirmities of his children, and deals with them accordingly—so does the great Searcher of hearts in the case of His spiritual family. For He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. If you had a crippled child, would you harshly push him down, because he could not walk with a firm and vigorous step? Or if he were afflicted with any bodily or mental infirmity—would not that very affliction commend him all the more to your tenderest affection, and anxious care? How you would shield him to the utmost of your power from the rudeness and unkind treatment of others, and could scarcely bear him out of your sight, lest he meet with any injury. So our heavenly Father looks down with pity and compassion upon the infirmities of His children. He regards their woes with eyes of holy pity!
True prayer is the inward breathing of the heart after God. There is often more depth, power, and prevalence in the inward sigh and groan of a broken heart and a contrite spirit—than in the vocal expression of the lips!
A sealed book
"Then He opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Thousands read the Scriptures to whom it is a sealed book. We must beg the Lord to illuminate the sacred page, to cast a divine light upon the Scriptures, and thence into our heart. And then we shall understand the Scriptures by the same inspiration under which that holy word was written. "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of Your law."
The eye of God
"O Lord, You have searched me, and known me." Psalm 139:1
Men in general take no notice of 'heart sins.' If they can keep from sins in life—from open acts of immorality—they are satisfied. What passes in the chambers of imagery they neither see nor feel. Not so with the child of grace. He carries about with him the secret conviction that the eye of God reads every thought. Every inward movement of pride, self-righteousness, rebellion, discontent, peevishness, fretfulness, lust, and wantonness—he inwardly feels that the holy eye of God—reads all—marks all—hates and abhors all. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." Psalm 139:23, 24
A rough, rugged & thorny road
"Through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22
The way to heaven is a way of trial, temptation, and tribulation. It is not a smooth and easy—but a rough, rugged, and thorny road. Events in providence, and trials in grace are continually springing up to teach us that lesson. Family afflictions—illness of body—painful bereavements—losses in property—and a path extremely rough and rugged in a variety of outward circumstances—are usually allotted to God's family. And to this rough path from without, there are generally added many painful trials from within. Jesus told His people that they would be hated and despised by the world—and would have to walk in a path of sorrow. Yet they find that all these things work together for their spiritual good—that none of these trials and afflictions do or can separate them from the love of God. They also discover that these sorrowful things are—all weighed out in due weight and measure—all appointed by sovereign wisdom—all timed by eternal love!
If I have learned anything
"Without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
I have been a preacher more than thirty years—and yet I feel now weaker than ever. I am all weakness! Though I have preached hundreds, I might almost say thousands, of sermons, I have no power to open up any part of God's truth with utterance, liberty, life, or feeling. I stand before you this morning as I stand before God—depending wholly upon His strength made perfect in my weakness. If I have learned anything—it is my sinfulness and weakness. And I know and feel that if I am anything—have anything—do anything—speak anything—write anything spiritual and acceptable to the church of God—it must be by the operation and influence of the Blessed Spirit upon my heart!
As, then, we learn our weakness—we begin to learn our strength. Despairing of all strength in self—we look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only as we thus receive strength out of His fullness that we are made strong—to believe—to hope—to love—to fight against our besetting sins—to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts!
Look how sin has ruined your soul
Look how sin has ruined your soul—how it has brought you under the wrath of God. See how you have been entangled in sin. Look at the long catalogue of crimes which you have committed—if not in deed, in word or thought—since you lay in your mother's lap. Think only of the sins of a single day—what carnality—what unbelief—what pride—what covetousness—what selfishness! But I need not go through the catalogue. I could not stand up to read, nor could you sit to hear, article by article, the contents of that long dark scroll. The human heart is too deep an abyss of sin to be laid bare to open view! It is like the common sewer—it is best covered up by a culvert. There is stench enough at the mouth, without penetrating through the whole length of its hideous contents!
A root is hidden in the ground
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:10
The love of money, when at all inordinate, blinds the mind, and hardens and deadens the conscience to a fearful degree. Some sins, as, for instance, drunkenness, dishonesty or immorality—so carry with them their own condemnation—that they cannot well disguise their dreadful sinfulness—either from the guilty criminal himself or from the world around him. But covetousness is a sin of so subtle a nature—and so imperceptible a growth—that a man may be very far gone into it without his own conscience being alarmed—or its drawing down much observation or censure from professor or profane.
A root is hidden in the ground—and therefore the love of money does not attract much attention until the stem gets stout and tall—and shows flowers and fruit. This very circumstance, therefore, makes it all the more deceptive and dangerous. Did you ever know a covetous man who could see his own covetousness? Or did you ever know one to be convinced of it, to confess it, and forsake it? No! They go on in it, and the older they get the more are they hardened and confirmed in it. For, unlike other sins, covetousness is the special and growing besetting sin of advancing years. "Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness." Luke 12:15
The history of the Old Testament
The history of the Old Testament is little else but a record of the perverseness of man—and of the goodness and mercy of God. From the day that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to the close of the canon of the Old Testament—their history is but one unmingled series of perverseness and rebellion. And all God's dealings with them from first to last were but repeated instances of His unparalleled patience—rich forbearance—and unspeakable goodness towards them.
But though the Lord thus displayed His goodness and mercy towards them, we must ever bear in mind that He hated their sins, and was justly provoked by their iniquities. He, therefore, from time to time, raised up prophets to testify against their sins, and to denounce His displeasure against them. And not only so, but He sent chastisement after chastisement, and sold them again and again into captivity, in order to bring them to repentance for their disobedience.
Three branches of divine truth
There are three branches of divine truth which seem to have been specially opened up in the experience of the Apostle Paul; and which he therefore, as an inspired writer in the New Testament, opened and enforced with corresponding fullness, clearness, and power—
1. The first branch of divine truth into which he was so deeply led is the Fall of man, with its attendant consequences of sin and death.
2. The second branch of divine truth into which he was so blessedly led is the Person, work, obedience, death, resurrection and glorification of the Son of God, viewed in relationship to His Church and bride.
3. The third great branch of divine truth in which the eminent Apostle so blessedly shines, is sovereign grace in its justifying, sanctifying, and saving effects upon the Church of God.
It never was the purpose of God to address the Scripture merely to man's intellect—but to his heart and conscience. As, then, these divine truths formed part and parcel of the Apostle's experience, and flowed into his soul out of the bosom of Christ, so they flowed out of his heart, and were written by his pen in the inspired record.
They only plunge themselves deeper in the ditch!
How many poor souls are struggling against the power of sin—and yet never get any victory over it! How many are daily led captive by the lusts of the flesh, the love of the world, and the pride of life—and never get any victory over them! How many fight and grapple with tears, vows, and strong resolutions against the besetting sins of temper, levity, or covetousness—who are still entangled and overcome by them again and again!
Now, why is this? Because they know not the secret of spiritual strength against—and spiritual victory over them. It is only by virtue of a living union with the Lord Jesus Christ, drinking into His sufferings and death, and receiving out of His fullness—that we can gain any victory over the world, sin, death, or hell. Sin is never really or effectually subdued in any other way!
It is not, then, by legal strivings and earnest resolutions—vows, and tears, which are but monkery at best—the vain struggle of religious flesh to subdue sinful flesh—which can overcome sin. But it is by a believing acquaintance with, and a spiritual entrance into the sufferings and sorrows of the Son of God—having a living faith in Him—and receiving out of His fullness, supplies of grace and strength—His strength made perfect in our weakness.
A sight of Him as a suffering God—or a view of Him as a risen Jesus—must be connected with every successful attempt to get the victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave. You may strive, vow, and repent—and what does it all amount to? You just sink deeper and deeper into sin than before! Pride, lust, and covetousness come in like a flood—and you are swamped and carried away almost before you are aware! But if you get a view of a suffering Christ, or of a risen Christ—if you get a taste of His dying love—a drop of His atoning blood—or any manifestation of His beauty and blessedness—there comes from this spiritual baptism into His death or His life a subduing power—and this gives a victory over temptation and sin which nothing else can or will give!
Yet I believe we are often many years learning this divine secret—striving to repent and reform, and cannot—trying to get better by dipping the Ethiopian into the washing tub—until at last by divine teaching we come to learn a little of what the apostle meant when he said, "The just shall live by faith." And when we can get into this life of faith, this hidden life—then our affections are set on things above. There is no use setting people to work by legal strivings—they only plunge themselves deeper in the ditch! You must get Christ into your soul by the power of God—and then He will subdue—by His smiles, blood, love, and presence—every internal foe!
Grace & glory
"The Lord will give grace and glory." Psalm 84:11
It is the peculiar glory of God to give out of the infinite fullness of His goodness and love. The more He gives—the more is He glorified. We should come to God's gracious footstool as to that of a free and bounteous Benefactor, saying before Him in the simplicity of a little child, "Lord, I am poor, enrich me! Lord, I am hungry, feed me! Lord, I am naked, clothe me! Lord, I am sinful, forgive me! Lord, I am helpless, take pity and compassion upon me! Lord, I am weak and wandering, ever stumbling and falling—hold me up, and I shall be safe! Lord, I have nothing, and am nothing—give me what seems good to You—and make me what You would have me to be."
The secret of superabounding grace
Those who know nothing—of their own heart—of their own infirmities—of their own frailties—of their own inward or outward slips and backslidings—know nothing of the secret of superabounding grace. We must be perpetually reminded that we have no strength of our own. And thus—our sins—our slips—our falls—our backslidings—our frailties—are mercifully overruled among the all things which work together for our good. They teach us our weakness—and by teaching us our weakness—lead us up to Christ's strength!
Fitted together perfectly
In the body of Christ, every spiritual part supplies its allotted portion of strength and activity to the rest. This should be exemplified in a gospel church, where love and union reign. The Spirit gives to each member that measure of grace which is sufficient not only for his own salvation and consolation—but that which contributes something to the welfare of the whole. Thus, some contribute their prayers, having little else to bestow, for the good of their brethren. Others, whom the Lord has blessed with a measure of this world's goods, give of their substance to those poor members to whom their liberality is often a timely help. Others supply the church with a godly example, setting before their eyes a godly life, a self-denying, upright, consistent walk and conduct. Others are free to speak, possess a pleasing gift in conversation and prayer, and out of the fullness of a believing heart can testify what God has done for their souls in humble, simple, yet savory language. Others are patterns of humility, holding forth a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Others manifest much tenderness of conscience, great circumspection of conduct, and exercise of much godly fear. Some are possessed of a great spirit of love and affection. Others of much zeal and boldness for the truth. Others of a sound judgment and keen discernment. Others manifest much patience under suffering, or meekness under persecution, or great spirituality of mind. Some have a deep acquaintance with trials and temptations, and much knowledge of the wiles of Satan, and the deceitfulness and depravity of the human heart.
Thus, in one way or another, every part supplies something to the well-being of the body. However poor or weak a member may feel itself to be in a church—still it is as much an integral part of the body as the strongest. My little finger is as much an integral part of my body as my hand or arm—to part with it would give me pain, and I suffer if the least injury is done to it. So, the weakest and feeblest member of the body of Christ is as much a member—has as much fitness in the body—is as much honored by the Spirit for what he does, under His gracious influences—as the strongest in faith, hope, and love. The whole body is fitted together perfectly. Every part, whether large or small, adds something to the welfare of the whole body—so that if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. The body is thus fitted, or, as it were—welded together into one united mass of firmness and strength—the indwelling Spirit working effectually in every part, according to the measure of grace bestowed upon it.
"That we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error." Ephesians 4:14
The word translated 'trickery' means literally, 'cheating at dice'—the allusion being to the practice of gamblers loading the dice to obtain a favorable throw. The dice are rightly marked and rightly thrown, but being loaded on one side, they always come up in favor of the cheat who throws them. Likewise, errors and heresies resemble loaded dice! They look all right—properly marked with texts and passages—and the minister or writer seems to throw them fully and fairly down before the people. And yet, like loaded dice, there is jugglery and deception at the bottom!
As in sleight of hand, things are made to appear what they are not—so jugglers and cheats in religion deceive people by a show of piety and holiness—under the cover of which they hide the most destructive errors! Simple souls are caught—and still the game goes on. Yet of all gamblers, religious gamblers are the worst, for the throw is for eternity, and the soul is at stake!
Whatever other form self may come
"Grow up into Him in all things." Ephesians 4:15
We have to grow up into Christ—and we cannot do this except we grow out of self. Self is a deadly enemy to growth in Christ. Where self-righteousness, self-indulgence, self-conceit, self-dependence—or in whatever other form self may come—it is a deadly enemy to growth in grace!
What is your heaviest trial?
What is your heaviest trial?We all have our peculiar trials that we have each to pass through—trials in body—trials in circumstances—trials in the family—trials in the mind. But are any of our trials equal to what we feel from indwelling sin? Is it not our daily experience to go groaning and sighing before the Lord on account of the working of sin in our carnal mind? Is it not our heaviest burden to have sin so striving for the mastery—that such base lusts are seeking perpetually to captivate our affections—that such evil desires are ever struggling for the victory in our bosom—that such pride and infidelity, and other abounding corruptions—are perpetually struggling, like a volcano in our bosom—to get full vent, and desolate our souls?
And what makes us feel this burden of sin? The fear of God in a tender conscience. To some men—sin is no burden. Their corruptions cause them no pain. Their pride, their presumption, their covetousness, their lewdness, all the workings of depraved nature never draw a tear from their eye, nor force a sob from their heart! Why? Because they lack the fear of God in a tender conscience. Just in proportion to the depth of godly fear, and to the tenderness of conscience before God, will sin be—inwardly perceived—inwardly felt—and inwardly mourned and groaned under!
This body of sin & death!
"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Romans 7:24
What, then, was it that so pained this holy Apostle? It was the body of death that he carried in him! That moving mass of corruption—that Behemoth raising up his ponderous limbs in his soul, and trampling down all that was good and gracious in his heart!
The idea is taken from a practice of the Romans of tying a dead body to a living one. And O! what must have been the sickening sensation of ever feeling the cold corpse close to the warm flesh—to wake, say, in the night, and feel the dead body tied around the living one—and clasping it in its cold arms! What a sensation of horror and disgust must the living feel from such a punishment!
Now look at it spiritually. Your 'new man' is warm toward God. There are holy affections springing up—there are panting desires flowing forth—there are tender sighs, and longings and languishings after the Son of God in His beauty. And then, linked to it, there is a carnal, torpid, sensual, dead, earthly heart—perpetually surrounding it with its cold, clammy embrace—communicating its deathly torpidity to the soul. Would we pray—would we pour the heart forth in warm desires? The cold paw of this body of sin and death quenches that rising desire! Would we in the secret chambers of our heart earnestly seek His face? The cold, clammy embrace of the body of sin and death chills it all—continually impeding every upward movement of the spirit, and clogging and fettering every desire of the heavenly nature! Now, the inward conflict produced by these exercises and perplexities forces out this cry—"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
A few grains of error
No one can take even a few grains of error with impunity—it will stupefy—if it does not kill; it will weaken the soul—if it does not at once destroy life. It will and must affect his head or his heart—his hands or his feet—his faith or his walk. No man can drink down error and the spirit of error without being injured—his spiritual strength weakened—and his spiritual limbs paralyzed.
We are to beware of error as we would of poison! There is something in error alluring, as well as sweet to the carnal mind. Many a child has been allured by poisonous berries—first to taste, and, when tasted, their sweetness has drawn it on largely to eat. Let error once hang down its alluring berries from the pulpit—there are plenty in the congregation to pluck and eat. Therefore beware of error—and of erroneous men! I am jealous of error in proportion as I love and value the truth.
Whence comes this spiritual desire?
"My soul stays close to You." Psalm 63:8
Whence comes this spiritual desire? It arises from the quickening work of the Spirit in the soul. Until we are divinely enlightened to see—and spiritually quickened to feel our lost, ruined state—we are satisfied with the things of time and sense—our hearts are in the world—our affections are fixed on the poor perishing vanities that must quickly pass away—and there is not one spiritual longing or heavenly craving in the soul. But when the Lord sends light and life into the conscience—to show us to ourselves in our true colors—then spiritual desires immediately commence. The eyes of the understanding are spiritually enlightened to see God, and the heart is divinely quickened to feel that He alone can relieve the desires that the soul labors under—and thus there is set before the eyes of the mind, the Person who alone can give us that which the soul craves to enjoy!
When a man loathes himself
"You shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that you have committed." Ezekiel 20:43
When a man loathes himself, it is not merely that he hates himself. But that he looks upon himself as a vile, detestable wretch. Some loathe toads—some loathe spiders—some loathe filth. Loathing, then, not merely implies hating a thing—but hating it as a thing that we cannot bear to look upon!
Such a deceptive creature
Self must receive a death blow! But this self is such a deceptive creature—he can wear such masks—he can assume so many forms—he can rise to such heights—he can sink to such depths—he can creep into such holes and corners—that I must act the part of the police, so as to find out the felon, track him to his hiding-place, and drag him out into the light of day!
The strait & narrow path
"In the world you shall have tribulation." John 16:33
He who will walk in the path which God has chosen for him, will have to meet with every opposition to his walking therein—infidelity, unbelief, rebellion, peevishness, impatience—the assaults of Satan as an angel of darkness—the delusions of Satan as an angel of light—false friends—secret or open foes—the flattery of professors—often the frowns of God's children—the loss of worldly interests—the sacrifice of property—all these things are entailed upon those who will walk in the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life. They are all connected with the cross of Christ—and cannot be escaped!
He will never let you have an earthly paradise
"I will satisfy her poor with bread." Psalm 132:15
What a sweetness there is in the word "satisfy!" The world cannot satisfy us! Have we not tried, and some of us perhaps for many years, to get some satisfaction from it? But can wife or husband "satisfy" us? Can children or relatives "satisfy" us? Can all that the world calls good or great "satisfy" us? Can the pleasures of sin "satisfy" us? Is there not in all an aching void? Do we not reap dissatisfaction and disappointment from everything that is of the creature—and of the flesh? Do we not find that there is little else but sorrow to be reaped from everything in this world? I am sure I find, and have found for some years—that there is little else to be gathered from the world but disappointment, dissatisfaction, vanity, and vexation of spirit!
The poor soul looks around upon the world—upon all the occupations, amusements, and relations of life—and finds all one melancholy harvest—so that all it reaps is sorrow, perplexity, and dissatisfaction! Now when a man is brought here—to desire satisfaction—something to make him happy—something to fill up the aching void—something to bind up broken bones, bleeding wounds, and leprous sores—and after he has looked at everything—at doctrines, opinions, notions, speculations, forms, rites, and ceremonies in religion—at the world with all its charms—and at self with all its varied workings—and found nothing but bitterness of spirit, vexation and trouble in them all, and thus sinks down a miserable wretch—then it is that the Lord opens up to him something of the Bread of life—and he finds a satisfaction in that, which he never could gain from any other quarter!
And that is the reason, my friends, why the Lord afflicts His people so—why some carry about with them such weak, suffering bodies—why some have so many family troubles—why others are so deeply steeped in poverty—why others have such rebellious children—why others are so exercised with spiritual sorrows that they scarcely know what will be their end! It is all for one purpose—to make them miserable outside of Christ—dissatisfied except with gospel food—to render them so wretched and uncomfortable that God alone can make them happy—and alone can speak consolation to their troubled minds!
My friends, if there be any young people here whose heart God has touched with His Spirit, and you are yet seeking some satisfaction from the world—if your health and spirits are yet unbroken, and you are looking to reap a 'harvest of pleasure' from the creature—depend upon it, if you are a child of God—you will be disappointed! The Lord will pull up by the roots all your 'anticipated pleasure.' He will effectually mar your worldly happiness! He will never let you have an earthly paradise—and it is your mercy that He will not! If you are looking for happiness—from wife or husband—from business—from the world—from whatever your carnal heart is going out after—depend upon it, God will let you take no solid nor abiding pleasure in them—but He will cut up by the roots all your earthly enjoyments!
He will mar all your worldly plans, and bring you to this spot—to be a miserable wretch without Christ—to be a ruined creature without the manifestations of the Son of God to your soul. And when you can find no pleasure in the world, no happiness in the things of time and sense—but feel misery in your soul, and are fearing lest eternal misery be your portion in the world to come—you will then be the very one who God will comfort through the gospel—and give you a manifested interest in the promise made to Zion, "I will satisfy her poor with bread."
It is our mercy that we cannot take pleasure in the world! If we could—I know where and what I would be! I would be pursuing the vain imaginations of my carnal heart—and trying to reap pleasure where real happiness never can be found! And if any of you, my friends, are mourning, sighing and groaning—and sometimes heaving up with rebellion and fretful impatience because you cannot have what you wish naturally to enjoy—or because you cannot bring about your earthly schemes—and have little else but sorrow of heart and trouble of soul—you are far more favored than if you could have all that heart could wish! God, who has made you wretched that you might find happiness in Him—will not leave you to live and die in your misery! He will bind up every bleeding wound, and pour the oil of joy into your troubled heart! "I will satisfy her poor with bread."
"You feed them from the abundance of Your own house, letting them drink from Your rivers of delight." Psalm 36:8
God does not give grudgingly or niggardly, as though He ever regretted what He bestowed. But what He gives He bestows as a God—freely, bounteously, overflowingly—worthy of an infinite, eternal, self-existent Jehovah!
To be truly saved
"Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling." 2 Timothy 1:9
To be truly saved, is to be saved—from wrath to come—from the power of sin—from an empty profession—from a form of godliness—from the flesh—from the delusions of Satan—from the blindness and ignorance of one's own heart.
How do you measure your knowledge of truth?
How do you measure your knowledge of truth? Is it by the number of texts that you have learned by heart? Is it by your being able to explain what you see in the Scriptures? Is it by the understanding that you have obtained by comparing passage with passage? If you have no better knowledge than this—it all stands in the flesh—and it is nothing else but 'dim letter speculation' which leaves the soul barren before God.
Measure your knowledge by this test—what feelings are produced by it—what exercises before God—what breathings in the presence of Him with whom you have to do—what drawings forth of heart—what solemn questionings of soul before Him in whose presence you from time to time stand. Now this test will apply to every degree and stage and state of spiritual life—so far as that spiritual life is in exercise.
Whatever notions or opinions we may previously have had about God—and they may be most clear and systematic, they may run most completely in the channel of letter truth—whatever outward notions, speculations, or imaginations we may have concerning the being of God, we only know Him spiritually so far as He is pleased immediately to manifest Himself to our consciences. All other knowledge stands in the flesh—it is the mere fruit of the creature—and falls utterly short of that knowledge which is spiritual wisdom and eternal life.
But whenever the Lord the Spirit brings home the truth of God with power to the soul—He raises up, by the application of that truth—spiritual feelings, spiritual breathings, and spiritual exercises upon that which He is pleased to communicate.
Behold, I am vile
"Behold, I am vile." Job 40:4
Sometimes the believer—gets entangled in some temptation—backslides from God—goes out after broken cisterns which hold no water—deserts the living fountain—and seeks pleasure from its idols. If the Christian is entangled in any sin, or caught in any snare of the flesh or temptation of Satan—a tender conscience brings him down to the Lord's feet to moan and sigh and groan; and to confess—what a vile wretch he is to be so entangled with evil—what a monster of iniquity to be so overcome by evil—what a foul, filthy, polluted beast, to have so much evil at work in his heart, and continually carrying him away captive!
We may easily measure men's religion
"He who says he remains in Him ought himself also to walk just like He walked." 1 John 2:6
We may easily measure men's religion by this test—not where they are in 'mere doctrine'—not where they are in 'empty notions'—not where they are in 'presumptuous confidence'—not where they are in 'towering speculation.' But where they are in—brokenness of heart—tenderness of conscience—contrition of spirit—meekness of soul—godly fear—filial awe—and trembling reverence. Where is the mind of Christ visible in them? Where is the image of a suffering Lord stamped upon them? It is 'vain confidence' to be always talking about Christ—and to know nothing of the Spirit of Christ. It is 'vain talking' to profess to know the cross of Christ—and never have any reflection of Christ's image in us. It is the worst of folly, and the height of presumption, to boast of ourselves as children of God, when there is nothing of the image of a broken-hearted Lord stamped upon our soul—or visible in our demeanor. Are you, then, a poor broken-hearted child of the living God? Is there any measure of the Spirit of Christ in you? Is there any faint resemblance of His meekness and holy image stamped upon you?
A God who will not be mocked nor trifled with
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6
If the Lord, then, has showed us any spiritual light, He has showed us light both with respect to Himself and with respect to ourselves. He has showed us, with respect to Himself, who HE is. He has stamped something of Himself upon our consciences. He has brought some testimony concerning Himself into our hearts. He has revealed something of His glorious character to our souls, and brought us, under the operations of the Holy Spirit, into His presence—there to receive communications of life out of Christ's inexhaustible fullness. Thus we see and feel that we have to do with a heart-searching God. We see and feel that we have to do with a sin-hating God. We see and feel that we have to do with a God who will not be mocked nor trifled with. As He is pleased to reveal it to us, we see and feel that every secret of our heart, every working of our mind is open before Him.
Also, so far as He is pleased to manifest it, we see what WE are in His holy and pure eyes—a mass of sin, filth, and corruption—without creature help—without creature strength—without creature wisdom—without creature righteousness—without creature loveliness—without anything of which we can say is spiritually good.
Also, so far as He is pleased to manifest it, He shows us the way of SALVATION through Jesus Christ. He has not only showed us what we are by nature, but He has in a measure condescended to show us what we are by grace. Not merely brought into our hearts some acquaintance with Himself as a God of perfect justice—but He has also brought into our souls some acquaintance with Him as a God of mercy—and has thus brought us in some solemn measure to know Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.
Absolute dependence upon the Lord
"Our soul waits for the Lord: He is our help and our shield." Psalm 33:20
There seems to be one feature which is common to every believer in whatever stage of spiritual experience he may happen to be—and that is an absolute renunciation of self—and an absolute dependence upon the Lord to work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. Let men talk about the wisdom of the creature—or boast of human righteousness—or human merit—or any other such vain figment of the imagination. You will never find any of the Biblical saints breathing forth any other language than a complete renunciation of the creature in all its bearings, and a simple hanging and dependence upon the Lord of life and glory—to manifest Himself to them—to bless them—to teach them—to lead them into all truth. Thus the experience of the saints stamps the lie upon the whole fiction of human merit, creature wisdom, and fleshly righteousness.
My grace is sufficient
"And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9
Not your strength—not your wisdom—not your prayers—not your experience—but "My grace"—My free, My matchless grace, independent of all works and efforts, independent of everything in the creature—flowing wholly and solely, fully and freely, out of the bosom of Jesus, to the needy—the guilty—the destitute—the undone. You who are tried in worldly circumstances, who have to endure the hard lot of poverty—My grace is sufficient for you! You who are tempted, day by day, to say or do that which conscience testifies against—My grace is sufficient for you! You who are harassed with family troubles and afflictions, and are often drawn aside into peevishness and fretfulness—My grace is sufficient for you!
In whatever state, stage, trial, or circumstance of soul the child of God is, the promise still runs—My grace is sufficient for you! Our weakness, helplessness, and inability are the very things which draw forth the power, the strength, and the grace of Jesus. Believer, your case is never beyond the reach of the words—My grace is sufficient for you! The free, the matchless, sovereign grace of God, is sufficient for all His people—in whatever state, or stage, or trouble, or difficulty they may be in!
O, what opposition
O, what opposition there is to the life of faith! What difficulties, impediments, obstacles, and afflictions lie in a man's path when he sets out in faith! There is sin perpetually working—there is the devil tempting or harassing him—sometimes the world ensnaring or persecuting him—and often his own heart deceiving and entangling him.
Did ever a man see so filthy a sight?
As the veil is removed, the soul also begins to see and feel the workings of inward sin that it was previously ignorant of. The removal of the veil not merely shows us the glory of God, but everything contrary to that glory—the pride of our heart—the power of our unbelief—the enmity of our carnal mind—the awful hypocrisy, the daring presumption—the abominable treachery—the fleshy lusts—and all the obscene imaginations of our depraved nature, that will work in us in spite of all our groans and cries to the contrary. All this, as the veil is taken off the soul, becomes more and more manifested, and we have (and O, what a sight it is!) a sight of ourselves!
Did ever a man see so filthy a sight as himself? When he looks down into the sewer of his own nature, does he not see everything there, creeping and crawling, like tadpoles in a ditch, to disgust him? But as a man sees and feels more and more of the workings of his depraved nature, and the breakings forth of the hypocrisy of his treacherous heart—he is brought to look more simply and more singly to the glorious Son of God, and cast himself more sincerely and unreservedly upon that blood which cleanses him from all sin!
The veil is taken away!
"For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they didn't subject themselves to the righteousness of God." Romans 10:3
What a motley monster is man in his natural state—full of evil—continually committing sin—daring God to His face by a thousand crimes—and yet setting up his own righteousness! We might just as well expect that a felon in prison, who is there awaiting in the condemned cell the merited punishment of his aggravated crimes—of his murders, robberies, and continued outrage against all human laws—should hope to come out of prison by his good deeds and obedience to the laws of his country—as expect such a vile wretch as man to hope to climb up to heaven by the ladder of his—good words—good thoughts—good works—and good intentions.
Self-righteousness in all its forms is so interlaced with every thought of our heart, so intertwined with every fiber of our natural mind, that though we know ourselves to be sinners, yet self-applause and self-complacency bid us do something to gain God's favor! O, in what a sunken state man is! We never can abase man too much. O, the gulf of misery and ruin into which he has fallen! O, the depths of depravity into which he has been hurled! O, the bottomless abyss of destruction and guilt into which, when Adam fell, he cast himself and all his race!
But though so awful is man's state, yet, "the veil" upon his heart prevents him from seeing the depths of his own fall. This is one of the worst features of man's ruin—that it is hidden from him—and that he knows nothing of it until, through a miracle of grace, he is plucked out of the pit of horror, and saved from going down to the abyss of hell, with all his sins and crimes upon his head! Ministers, therefore, can never abase man too much, nor point out too clearly the awful abyss of ruin and degradation into which he has fallen. But "the veil" on man's heart hides from him his own ruin! And until the veil in a measure is removed—he never knows, never sees, never feels one truth aright.
Two grand lessons
There are two grand lessons to be learned in the school of Christ, and all divine teaching is comprehended and summed up in them. One is to learn by the Spirit's teaching, what WE are by nature—so as to see and feel the utter ruin and thorough wreck of self, and the complete beggary, weakness, and helplessness of the creature in the things of God. This is the first grand branch of divine teaching. And we have to learn this lesson day by day—line upon line, line upon line—here a little, and there a little. Through this branch of divine teaching we have almost daily to wade, and sometimes to sink into very painful depths under a sense of our depraved nature.
And the other grand branch of divine teaching is to know who JESUS is, and to know what He is to us—to know the efficacy of His atoning blood to purge the guilty conscience—the power of His justifying righteousness to acquit and absolve from all sin—the mystery of His dying love to break down the hardness of our heart, and raise up a measure of love towards Him—and to see, by the eye of faith, His holy walk and suffering image, so as to be in some measure conformed to Him, and have His likeness in some measure stamped upon our souls.
By these two branches of divine teaching does the Spirit make and keep the children of God humble. And all our various providences, trials, temptations, and deliverances—all we pass through in nature, and all we pass through in grace—in a word, the whole course of circumstances by which the child of God finds himself surrounded—all tend to lead him into these two paths—either into a deeper knowledge of himself, or a deeper knowledge of Christ—in order to humble him, and exalt the Lord of life and glory. To this point all the dealings of the Spirit tend, and in this channel all the teachings of the Spirit run. And every teaching and every experience that does not run in this channel, and does not tend to this point—to abase us, and to bring us down to the dust; and at the same time exalt the Lord of life and glory, and put the crown on his blessed head—does not spring from the teachings of God the Spirit in the heart—for His covenant office is, to take of the things of Christ, and make them known to the soul, so as to exalt and glorify Jesus.
That idol, religious self
To have nothing and to be nothing but a beggar and a pauper—how this crushes human pride! We must have nothing in self to rest and hang upon. But the truth is, that until self is dethroned—until creature righteousness, creature piety, creature exertions, and creature strength are brought to nothing, we do not enter into the power, blessedness, and reality of Christ's kingdom—we are not fit guests to sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We cannot enter into the treasures of pardoning love—see the riches of atoning blood—and feel the glory and beauty of justifying righteousness—until that idol, religious self, is hurled from its pedestal!
While full of pride and self, we cannot follow Jesus into the garden of Gethsemane—nor see, by the eye of faith, the suffering, groaning, agonizing, bleeding Son of God—we cannot take our station at the foot of the cross, and behold the wondrous mystery of Immanuel, the God-Man, bleeding and dying there. While we are engaged in looking at our own pharisaic religion, our own piety, our own exertions, our own doings—we have no eyes to see Jesus, no ear to hear His voice. We are so enamored with ourselves that the King of kings has no beauty in our eyes—He is to us as a root out of a dry ground, and there is no loveliness in Him that we should desire Him.
But when we begin to see the ugliness, the depravity, the dreadful workings of self—we see how impossible it is that self can ever stand before God. And when we feel the ruin of self, then we begin to feel what a glorious salvation has been accomplished, according to the counsel and mind of God. We then see the Lord of life and glory stooping down to save wretches who could never climb up to Him—pardoning criminals that have no righteousness of their own—and opening up the treasures of His dying love and risen glory to those who without Him, must utterly perish.
As this is revealed to faith, faith embraces it as the great "mystery of godliness"; hope casts out her anchor, and enters within the veil; and love flows out to Jesus, and embraces Him in the arms of affection, for such dying love as that which the Son of God manifested on the cross of Calvary.
Now this experience puts the sinner in his right place—it debases him in his feelings—humbles him in his soul—and breaks him to nothing. And at the same time, it exalts the Lord Jesus in his affections—and He becomes manifestly in his conscience as his all in all.
The furnace of affliction
"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10
From time to time God puts His people in severe situations and trying circumstances—so that they have no one else to look unto. They have no other help, shelter, or refuge—but out of sheer necessity are obliged to cast their souls on Him who is able to save. The Lord has chosen His people in the furnace of affliction. And O, how real affliction deadens us to everything else! When there is no affliction, the "world" dances before us with a sunbeam upon it—attractive, dazzling, and beautiful—and we, in our carnal minds, can fly from flower to flower as a butterfly in the sun. Our religion is at a very low ebb when this is the case—there may be a decent profession—but as to any life and power, how little is there except when affliction presses the soul down! We can do without Jesus very well when the world smiles, and carnal things are uppermost in our heart. But let affliction come—a heavy cross, a burden to weigh us down—then we drop into the place where the Lord Jesus Christ alone is to be found. When the soul gets pressed down into the valley of affliction, the Lord is pleased to meet with it there!
"The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation." 2 Peter 2:9
O, how continually is the poor child of God tempted! And what strong temptations! How painful! How powerful! How distracting! How entangling! How harassing! How bewitching! How Satanic is the black devil! How much more Satanic is the white devil! How continually is the child of God exercised with temptation! Temptations—so suitable—so powerful—so overpowering—that nothing but the grace of God can ever subdue the temptation, or deliver the soul out of it!
He fell through the sieve!
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." Luke 22:31, 32
The Lord did not pray for Judas—he was the son of perdition—and therefore he fell through the sieve, and fell into hell—where he now is—and where he will be to all eternity! And you and I would surely fall through too, unless we have a saving interest in the love and blood of the Lamb. You may escape for a time—but if you have no part in His atoning blood and grace—if He is not pleading for you—sooner or later you will fall through the sieve and will drop into hell—and that perhaps speedily!
Lean, barren, dead & unprofitable
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:10
Who that has eyes to see, has not seen this plainly again and again? There shall be a member of a church, and he shall be, while in poor circumstances—a humble, contrite, broken-hearted character. His conversation shall be savory, sweet, and profitable—and receiving many marks of God's favor, mercy, and love. But he shall have money left to him—or business shall prosper—or he shall marry a rich wife. And what is the effect? He becomes lean, barren, dead and unprofitable—and instead of his conversation being as before—savory and sweet, and upon the things of God—the world, and the things of the world, seem to eat up every green thing in his soul.
And is not this a painful operation?
"Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." John 15:2
What are we by nature? Are we not closely riveted and glued—to the world—to the things of time and sense—to our own righteousness—to all that God hates with complete hatred? Must not the sharp sword of God's Word cut asunder this close union—with the world—with the things of time and sense—with our own righteousness? Surely! Before we can be brought into any vital union with Christ, or any spiritual communion with His most gracious Majesty—the keen knife must pass between—us and self—us and our own righteousness—us and our own fleshly obedience—and thus separate us from these things. And is not this a painful operation? Can the keen knife pass between—us and the world—us and our fleshly obedience—us and our own righteousness—us and that idol self which we so dearly love and pay such devout worship to—without leaving marks and scars upon our flesh—or without causing some grievous and acute sensations? It cannot! And those who have experienced these things know it cannot.
But how indispensable, how utterly indispensable, is this operation in the hands of the Spirit—to cut us off from self—that we may have living union with the Lord Jesus Christ. For Christ and self can never unite. Christ's righteousness—and our own righteousness; the love of God—and the love of the world; the worshiping of Jesus—and the worshiping of idols; admiring of ourselves—and admiring of Him; can never sit upon the same throne! Self must be laid in ruins before Jesus can be set up effectually in the heart. There must be a divorce from everything that nature cleaves to, before a living union with the Lord Jesus Christ can be brought about.
This is the reason why the Lord's people pass through such severe exercises, perplexities, conflicts, trials, powerful temptations, varied feelings, deep afflictions—to uproot them—to cut them wholly off and out of self—that they may be brought by divine faith to have a vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes into the heart, He comes as King! Being therefore, its rightful Sovereign, He sways the faculties of the soul, and makes it obedient to His scepter. O Lord our God, other masters have ruled us—but we worship You alone.
If Christ abides in us, there will be some marks and fruits flowing out of that abiding. There will be some outward, as well as inward evidences, that we are of another spirit from those dead in sins, or dead in mere profession. There will be humility, sincerity, godly simplicity, filial fear, deadness to the world, separation from evil, lowly thoughts of ourselves, brokenness of heart, contrition of spirit, tenderness of conscience, a fleeing from all things here below to make our sweet abode in the bosom of a risen Lord. Can we find these things going on in our souls? If not, we may call ourselves Christians—but we have little evidence that we are worthy of the name!
Earthly, sensual, devilish
"This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish." James 3:15
James is here contrasting the wisdom which comes from God, with the wisdom which comes from man. What is the decisive stamp which this great Apostle puts upon all human wisdom? He writes upon it three epithets as its distinctive marks—and thus condemns it to the lowest depth of abasement.
First, then, this wisdom which springs from the creature and the flesh has its origin in the EARTH—and above that earth whence it has its source, it can never rise. It must always, therefore, being earth-born, grovel on the ground—out of the earth it grows—and it can never rise above the mists and fogs which cover its native soil.
Secondly, it is "SENSUAL," or "natural" as we read in the margin. Thus, it is a wisdom adapted to our fallen nature—a wisdom which addresses itself entirely to our senses. It knows nothing of God—nothing of heavenly things—nothing of eternal realities—nothing of supernatural and revealed truth—but flows out of and is adapted to reason and sense, knowing only such objects as eye, ear, touch, taste, and smell are cognizant of, and conversant with. It is a wisdom, therefore, which begins in self—and ends in self—and never rises beyond the fallen nature of ruined man.
And thirdly, comes that word which debases and degrades all human wisdom, in the matter of salvation—to the lowest hell. By one word he puts upon it a fatal stamp, as though he would entirely reprobate it—"DEVILISH." It seems as though he would say, "Man, with all his boasted wisdom, is even exceeded by devils in that matter. The fallen spirits, those enemies of God, who are waging eternal war against God and His dear Son, are the parents of that wisdom which is earthly and sensual—and thus are stamped upon it the very features of hell."
But bear in mind, that these epithets are applicable to human wisdom—only so far as it interferes with divine matters. In its own province, human wisdom is useful and necessary. It is only when it intrudes itself into divine things, and makes a bold entry into the sanctuary, bringing down sacred and heavenly realities to its own level—that it is to be condemned. It is because he saw that the carrying of natural wisdom into divine things that he condemned its origin as earthly—its nature as sensual—its end as devilish!
Man, then, in a state of nature, has not a grain of heavenly wisdom. He knows nothing experimentally of—the way of salvation—his own ruin and misery—the grace of God—the Person and operations of the Comforter—of His leadings, guidings, teachings, anointings. He may indeed possess a large amount of earthly wisdom—and if a professor of religion, he may carry it up to the greatest height in the 'letter of truth'—he may be wise in the Scriptures—wise in the plan of salvation—wise in comparing text with text, Scripture with Scripture, and passage with passage—but unless a measure of divine wisdom has dropped into his heart from the mouth of God, he has at present nothing but that wisdom which is "earthly, sensual, and devilish."
"Anoint your eyes with eye-salve, that you may see." Revelation 3:18
We know nothing except by divine teaching. This leads us to the throne of grace to beg of the Lord to teach us and show us what we are—take the veil off our heart—and discover to us our real state. Divine light in a man's conscience will teach him what he is—and divine life in a man's soul will make him feel what he is. When he has not God's light—he is dark. When he has not God's teachings—he is ignorant. When he has not God's wisdom—he is all folly. When he has not God's guidance—he goes astray. When he has not God's upholding—he falls. When he has not God's preserving—he turns aside into the paths of crookedness and error. We cannot see ourselves—we cannot see others—we cannot see truth—we cannot see Jesus, in His justifying righteousness—atoning blood—dying love—except so far as the blessed Spirit anoints our eyes with eye-salve that we may see!
Where are they?
"Preserved in Jesus Christ." Jude 1
Oh, it is a mercy to endure! When we look around, and see those who started with us in the Christian race—where are they? Some have gone into the world. Others have fallen into sin. Others have drunk down deadly draughts of heresy and error. But if we endure for a single year, or a single day—it is only by the grace of God! He who has begun the work of grace in the souls of His people will carry it on, and will make them endure—that He may crown His grace with eternal glory.
Mark the contrast!
"But I am poor and needy." Psalm 40:17
What an honest confession! How suitable to the experience of every God-taught soul! Let us contrast this humble confession with the boast that fell from the lips of the Laodicean church—I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing! Mark the contrast! The dead, carnal, lifeless professor, boasting—I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing! The exercised, tried, tempted child of God, confessing, "But I am poor and needy." The one, full of pride, and glorying in self! The other, broken, humble, contrite, and laid low at the footstool of mercy!
He cannot see, nor know, nor feel
If we take the Scriptures as our authority, in what a fearful state is mankind at large! O, how awfully fallen—O, how deeply sunk, man is! And yet one feature of man's ruined state is his complete ignorance of the depths of the fall. Though the sinful child of a sinful parent—though under the curse of an avenging law—though an enemy to God and godliness—though passing rapidly down the broad road that leads to eternal destruction—he knows it not! The veil of ignorance and blindness is upon his heart, and he is, as the Scripture speaks, "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him." God has poured upon him the spirit of slumber—therefore, he cannot see, nor know, nor feel who he is—nor what he is—nor where he is going! Language cannot describe the awful state in which man is.
But, through mercy, infinite mercy—there is "a remnant according to the election of grace," who are made deeply and sensibly to see, to know, and to feel their ruined and lost condition—into whose hearts the blessed Spirit puts a sigh and cry that they may know God's great salvation—and whom the same blessed Spirit, who first convinced them of their ruined state and implanted that cry in their souls, eventually brings to a happy enjoyment of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit, and He alone—who makes us feel our guilty, lost, and undone condition. It is He, and He alone—who wounds and pierces our heart with conviction—who opens up the depths of the fall—brings to light the evils of our nature—and makes us sigh and lament beneath the load of guilt upon the conscience—and gives us not only to feel the burden of sin, but puts into our hearts a groan and a cry after God's salvation to be made manifest to our heart. It is He, and He alone—who unfolds to our eyes who the Lord is—who reveals Christ in the heart, who sprinkles His blood upon the conscience—who manifests His justifying righteousness—who gives us eyes to see His glorious Person—and sheds abroad His dying love in the soul.
Take a glance
As we take a glance at the suffering and dying Lamb of God, how it shows us the awful and abominable nature of sin! When we can see the Son of God, by the eye of faith, coming down into this lower world, taking our nature into union with His own divine Person—when, by faith, we can accompany the Man of Sorrows into the gloomy garden of Gethsemane—or behold Him groaning, bleeding, and dying on the cross—an object of ignominy and shame—and believe that in this way, and this alone, salvation could be wrought out—O, what a view it gives us of the demerit and awful nature of sin—that nothing short of the incarnation of God's only begotten Son—nothing short of such a tremendous sacrifice could put away sin—and bring the elect back unto God!
A believing sight of the Lord Jesus hanging upon Calvary's tree, not only on the one hand shows us the awful nature of sin—but on the other, how full, how complete, how glorious, and how effectual must that salvation be of which the expiring Son of God could say, "It is finished!"
Snares, traps, baits
The Lord's people are, from time to time, deeply exercised with the power of sin. They find such ungodly lusts—they feel such horrid evils—the corruptions of their hearts are laid so naked and bare—and they find in themselves such a reckless propensity to all wickedness—they feel sin so strong—and themselves so weak! O how many of the Lord's people are tempted with sin morning, noon, and night! How many evils, horrid evils, are opening, as it were, their jaws to wholly swallow them up! Wherever they go, wherever they turn, snares, traps, baits seem lying on every side—strewed thickly in their path! They feel so helpless—and so inwardly sensible that nothing but the almighty power of God can uphold them as they walk in this dangerous path—a path strewed with snares on every hand—that they are made to cry to the Lord—Hold me up, and I shall be safe! Nothing short of God's salvation—in its freeness—in its fullness—in its divine manifestation—in its sin-subduing, lust-killing influence—can save them from the power of sin!
Carnal joy is killed to a child of God. I do not mean to say, that the 'carnal mind' is killed. We have too bitter and painful experience to the contrary. But the sources of carnal joy are killed. Why? Because those things which in time past did afford joy, are now discovered to be empty and destitute of the pleasure once found in them. Health, strength, wealth, honor, worldly amusements, sinful pleasures—all these things could once delight and gratify the carnal mind—but God in mercy has put bitterness into this cup. Our carnal mind may still be amused by them for a time. But O, what a gloomy retrospect! and how it pierces the conscience, that we could take a moment's pleasure, or derive an instant's happiness from those things which are so hateful and abominable in the sight of God! But if there be any real joy, or happiness, or consolation—it is only in Christ—His blood—His righteousness—His love—His preciousness—His suitability—His tender compassion—the riches of His grace—His glorious Person—all that He is—and all that He has for us.
If ever, as we pass through this wilderness, we feel one drop of solid joy, of true happiness, it must flow, it can flow only from one source—the manifestations of Christ to our souls. We can find joy and peace in Him alone. Sin, the world, the things of time and sense—business, amusement, so-called pleasure—afford now no true joy—there is an aching void—a feeling of dreariness and misery connected with everything short of divine communications of mercy, favor, and love. One smile from the Lord—one word from His lips—one gracious breaking in of the light of His countenance—does, while it lasts, communicate joy—and from no other quarter, from no other source can a moment's joy be drawn.
Baubles, toys, passing shadows
"That in Me you may have peace." John 16:33
Peace in self! That never can be found. Peace in the world! That never can be had. Peace in sin! God forbid any of His children should dream of peace there for a moment. Peace in the things of time and sense! Are they not all polluted—all baubles, toys, passing shadows—smoke out of the chimney—chaff on of the summer threshing floor? Can a tried, tempted, dejected believer, cast down with the difficulties of the way—can he find any peace in these things? His carnal mind may, to his shame, for a while be drawn aside by them—his wicked lusts and passions may be entangled in them—his fallen nature may grovel amid these poor perishing daydreams. But peace? There is no peace in these things! And so long as our wicked hearts are going out after wicked things, there will be no true, solid peace within.
Now the Lord designs that all His dear family should have peace in Him. He therefore drives them out of every refuge of lies that they may find no peace in self. He brings them out of the world, that they may find no peace there. He hunts them out of sin, that they may find no peace there. He sees fit also to exercise their minds, and to try them again and again, that finding no peace in anything else—they may come as poor broken-hearted sinners to the footstool of mercy, look unto Jesus, and find peace in Him!
Glued & fettered
The Lord has promised, that in the world we shall have tribulation. But how this staggers a child of God! He cannot understand that his allotted path in the world should be tribulation. And yet how needful—how indispensably needful it is—to have tribulation in the world—for how closely bound up our heart is in it. How glued and fettered our carnal heart is to the things of time and sense! What proneness—what daily, hourly proneness there is—to go after idols—to amuse our vain mind with passing shows—to take an interest in the smallest trifles which surround us—and thus forsake the Fountain of living waters—and hew out to ourselves cisterns—broken cisterns, that hold no water. What a veil of enchantment, too, is often over our eyes—and therefore, what a series of troubles—what days, and weeks, and months, and years of trial does it take to convince us that the world is—not our home—not our rest—not our enduring habitation.
But the Lord mercifully and graciously makes use of tribulation in various shapes and forms, to bring us out of the world—that we may not be condemned with it—nor make it our rest and home. Thus He draws us to His blessed feet, that in Him we may find that peace which we never have found—which we never can find anywhere else. In the world we never can have—we never will have—anything but tribulation and trial. But what is the effect—the merciful effect, of these troubles? Is there not a voice with them? When the ear is opened—tribulation speaks. Are there not most beneficial fruits and effects that flow out of tribulation? For instance. Is not our heart by nature very much glued to the world? Do we not naturally love and cleave to it? As we watch the varied movements of our hearts—are they not perpetually going out after something idolatrous—something to gratify and amuse, to interest, occupy, and please our carnal mind?
It is in order to bring us out of the world, and make us feel it is not our abiding place, and that no happiness is to be found in it—that the Lord sees necessary to lay tribulation upon us—and tribulation of that peculiar nature which will genuinely separate us from the world. When we are passing through tribulation, what a poor vain thing the world appears to us! We need inward consolation—the world cannot give it. We need balm for our conscience—the world, instead of pouring in that balm, rather rips the wound asunder. So that we need—tribulation after tribulation—trial upon trial—affliction upon affliction—stroke upon stroke—grief upon grief—sorrow upon sorrow—to cut asunder that close affinity which there is between us and the world, and to convince us in our very heart and conscience that there is—no rest—no peace—no happiness—no consolation—to be found in anything that the world presents!
Dark marks stamped upon this bright profession!
If we cast a glance at the profession of some, it is all upon the bright side of things. They would gladly have you believe that they are actually and experimentally before God, what they profess to be before men. But when we come with close and searching eye to watch the fruits that spring from this 'splendid profession,' how little do they correspond with the profession itself! Pride, covetousness, worldly-mindedness, levity and frivolity, a hard, contentious spirit, irreverence in divine things, running heedlessly into debt, general looseness of conduct. How often are these dark marks stamped upon this bright profession! They hold the truth doctrinally—but the work of the Spirit upon the heart is unknown!
That huge, that deformed, that ugly idol
"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely." Hosea 14:4
Have you never backslidden from God? The Lord in mercy may have kept you from backsliding openly, or bringing a reproach upon His cause. But backslidings are not limited to open sins. Are there no heart idolatries? No eye adulteries? No departing from the living God? No hewing out cisterns, broken cisterns, which hold no water? No cleaving to the world? No delighting in the things of time and sense? No hugging in your bosom that huge, that deformed, that ugly idol, more ugly than the hand of Hindu ever framed—yourself, that monster self—which you so love, admire, and almost adore? Self, that ugly monster, will be perpetually drawing away your eyes and affections from the living God—to center in that worthless and abominable idol. Now, when we feel, deeply and daily feel, our inward idolatries, backslidings, adulteries, and departings from the living God—has not the Lord given a gracious promise that these backslidings shall be healed? He says, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely."
Our cobweb garment of creature righteousness
Our cobweb garment of creature righteousness must be taken from us! We need to be stripped of those 'filthy rags' which cannot shield us from the eye of omniscient Justice. When the corruptions of our heart are laid bare—when sin is allowed to come in like a flood, so as to sweep away all those 'dreams of fleshly holiness and creature perfection'—when we are put into Satan's sieve and have our religion shaken backwards and forwards until every sound grain seems gone, and nothing rises to the top but the chaff which the wind blows away—when the Lord puts the soul into the furnace of affliction, and nothing comes to the surface but the dross and scum which are taken away by the Refiner—then we lose this 'fleshly holiness' that we once so dearly prized—and so ardently and anxiously longed to obtain. It is lost, utterly lost, when the Lord gives us a sight of what we are, and gives us a glimpse of what He is!
Little else than ignorance & folly!
There was a time, doubtless, with us, when we fancied ourselves very wise—especially when we had made some little progress, as we fancied, in religion, and had stored a few doctrines in our heads—when we had read a few authors, or had studied the Bible, and compared passage with passage and chapter with chapter. We doubtless congratulated ourselves on possessing a vast amount of wisdom—and thought we knew everything because we had some understanding in the 'letter of God's word.'
But when we get into difficulties, trials, temptations, and perplexities—then our wisdom all disappears, and we find it little else than ignorance and folly! It does not avail us when most needed. It cannot guide us into paths of peace. It cannot keep us from evil or error. Like a foot out of joint, it gives way the moment any weight or stress is laid upon it!
God deals with the soul in grace, as the clever sculptor deals with the marble block. He chips out a piece here, and makes prominent a piece there—and at last brings out the beautiful figure. So the blessed Spirit—that true sculptor, who engraves Christ's image in the heart—sometimes gives and sometimes takes—sometimes pares here, sometimes puts on there—until at last He brings forth the image of Christ in the soul!
The lusts of the flesh!
How strong are the lusts of the flesh! What power they have over the imagination! And how seductive they become, if in the least degree indulged—until the heart becomes a cage of unclean birds! The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye have sunk many a poor child of God into the deepest bondage! Pride, covetousness, worldly-mindedness, over-anxiety in business, conformity to worldly fashions in dress and furniture, society with those who fear not God—what crying evils are these in our day and generation!
If you want to eat your food in misery
"Give us day by day our daily bread." Luke 11:3
It is seeing the Lord's providential hand which makes the commonest temporal mercies sweet. Our daily bread—our various earthly and most undeserved comforts—our clothing—our house and home—our family and friends—are all bestowed upon us by God's kind providence! It is doubly sweet when we can receive them as immediately from the hands of God—as though He Himself brought them unto us! Whenever, then, we can see the goodness of God in giving us the bounties of providence, it seems to stamp upon them a double value—and we enjoy them, as it were, with a twofold relish—as coming from His bounteous hand!
If you want to eat your food in misery, take it with a thankless, rebellious heart. If you want to eat in sweetness, take it with a thankful heart—seeing it stamped with the goodness of God. A crust of bread, received thankfully as the gift of God, is sweeter than the richest and daintiest meal in which His hand is not seen—at a table so spread, you may sit down with discontent, and rise up with ingratitude.
"Lord, all my desire is before You. My groaning is not hidden from You." Psalm 38:9
The Lord's people are very subject to carnality, darkness, hardness, deadness, barrenness, and lukewarmness. And sometimes there seems to be only just so much life in their souls as to feel these things—and groan under them. Under these feelings, therefore, they cry to the Lord—they cannot bear that carnality and darkness, barrenness and death—which seems to have taken possession of them. They come with these burdens to the throne of grace, beseeching the Lord to revive His work in their hearts.
What is implied in the expression, 'my groaning'? Do we not groan under a sense of pain? It is the most natural expression of our feelings when we are under acute suffering. The woman in travail of childbirth—the patient under the keen knife of the surgeon—the man afflicted with some painful internal disease—can only give vent to their distressing feelings by groaning. And is it not so spiritually? When the Lord's people groan, it shows there is some painful sensation experienced within them—and these painful feelings they can only express by groaning aloud before the footstool of mercy!